18th Century Japanese art

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18th Century Japanese art
National Art Education Association
Instructional Resources: The Floating World Revisited: 18th Century Japanese Art
Author(s): Amy Boyce Osaki
Source: Art Education, Vol. 49, No. 3, Metaphor and Meaning (May, 1996), pp. 25-28+33-36
Published by: National Art Education Association
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INSTRUCTIONAL
THE
FLOATING
WORLD REVISITED
18TH
CENTURY JAPANESE ART
Chobunsai
Eishi(1756-1829),
TheCourtesans
andKasugano
oftheGomeiro
with
TheirAttendant
c. 1795.Woodblock
double
Hanaogi
oban,37.5cmx50.7cm.
print,
Kumegawa,
Portland
ArtMuseum,Portland,
LaddCollection,
1932.264.
Oregon.MaryAndrews
THE
WORLD REVISITED
FLOATING
18TH
CENTURY JAPANESE ART
*?lt?U?
*A?
*iee
This instructionalresource includes background
informationand discussion questions to assist you andyour
students in understandingthe people, time andplace shown
in Japanesewoodblockprints.In addition,these fourprints
include poems as well as images, providinga unique
opportunityto see how artistsandwritersworktogether.
The activitiessuggest ways to linkvisualartwith literaryart
and teach across two disciplines.Additionalinformationis
providedin a glossary andbibliography.
The students will be able to:
* Identifyseveral characteristicsof late 18thcentury
ukiyo-eart.
* Name the types of people who were involvedin the
FloatingWorld.
* Describe the general context in which this artwas
created.
* Applythis knowledge to projectsthatincorporatetext
and image.
INTRODUCTION:
In late 18thcenturyJapan,Japanesesociety was firmly
hierarchical,with the shogun on top, then the lords
(daimyo)and soldiers (samurai),and at the bottomthe
merchants.Though unableto officiallychange their social
status, the wealthymerchantsof Edo (Tokyo)gained
The
I
IAI
prominencethroughtheir role in the artsand socially
interactedwith the samurai.Withtheirpatronage,painting,
printmaking,literature,music, theater,andthe pleasure
quartersflourished.The distinctivelyurbanway of life
which evolved,resemblingin manyways the glitterof
Hollywood,was knownas the "FloatingWorld."It
symbolizeda certaindefiantcreativityat odds with the sober
Confucianmoralityespoused by the authoritarianshoguns.
A multitudeof images fromthis time survive,manyof which
were createdby variousartistsandwriterscollaboratingat
elaboratepartiesorganizedby samuraiand merchantsand
involvingmanyclasses of society.These images are called
ukiyo-e,literallypicturesof the FloatingWorld.
These images were the focus of an exhibition'The
FloatingWorldRevisited."Througha carefulexaminationof
prints,scrolls, screens, paintings,andbooks by artistssuch
as Hokusai,Utamaro,and Eishiwe gain greater
understandingof the time, place,and society in which the
artwas created.Woventhroughoutthese images are
poems, referencesto Japan'sclassicalpast, and signs of the
social ties linkingartists,writers,actors,and courtesansof
the period.Examplesof lacquerwritingboxes, writing
implements,andtobaccoboxes similarto those depictedin
ukiyo-efurtherillustratethe sumptuoussociety of the
FloatingWorld.
of the
and
Hanaogi
Kasugano
Attendant
Their
with
Kumegawa
CHOBUNSAIEISHI (1756-1829)
Courtesans
Gomeiro
c. 1795.Woodblockprint,doubleoban,37.5 cm x 50.7cm. PortlandArtMuseum,Portland,Oregon.
MaryAndrewsLaddCollection,1932.264.
The artistdepictsthreewomeninsidea courtesan's
one courtesanin the foregroundseatedon three
apartment:
largecushionsarrangingherhairpins,anothercourtesanonthe
leftholdingthe mirror,andanattendantlookingupfromher
reading.The womenaredressedin manylayersofkimonowith
intricatedesigns.The screenbehindthemseparatesthemfrom
the restof the sparselyfurnishedroom.Theirelaboratebutterfly
coiffureswereveryfashionable.
Emphasison patternsandlinereinforcesthe overallflatness
ART EDUCATION / MAY 1996
the womenappearas elongatedflatshapes
of the composition;
masses.The figuresare
ratherthanthree-dimensional
arrangedon strongdiagonals.The headofthe courtesanon the
leftindicatesthe pointof a trianglethatcontinuesdiagonally
downher robes,pasthercolleague'sheadandto the corer of
faceback
the print.A seconddiagonalconnectsthe attendant's
to the courtesansby followinghergazetowardthe woman
lookingintothe mirrorandthe pileof fabricin the lowerlefthandcorer.
INSTRUCTIONAL
SiE
A Competition
Among
the
Mirrored
Beauties
New
Their
in
of
the
l
iIe
Yoshiwara,
Writing
KITAOMASANOBU(1761-1816)
Spring1784.Foldingalbum,37 cm x 25 cm. PortlandArtMuseum,Portland,Oregon.MaryAndrewsLaddCollection,1966.84.
bookillustrated
This imageis twopages of a fourteen-page
by KitaoMasanobu(bornIwaseJintaroDenzo).Hewas raised
in a merchant-class
family,buthis tremendoussuccess as both
an artistanda writergavehimthe freedomto associatewith
samuraiandmerchants,actorsandcourtesans.Masanobu's
freedomwas curtailedby a changein government,andafter
beingfinedandimprisonedhe openeda tobaccoshopandhis
artbecamemorelimitedandrestrained.
Thealbumcontainsa prefaceby OtaNampo,theprominent
career.Masanobu
samuraiwriterwhohelpedlaunchMasanobu's
knewthe courtesansdepictedhereandeventuallymarrieda
courtesan.Eachpairofpagesshowstwofamouscourtesanswith
inscribedabovethem.
poemsintheirownhandwriting
In this view,the standingcourtesanon the left is in the
process of writinga poem on a long thinpiece of paper
(tanzaku)while her kneelingattendantholds the inkstone.
Deep in thoughtwith her brushin hand,she contemplates
the poem (haiku)scrawledaboveher head whichreads:
A Competition
Among
Mirrored
'Thoughthe raindropsgather,the scent of the plumlingers
on."Seatednext to her, anothercourtesanis readingandher
poem appearson the rightin restrainedhandwriting.This
poem comparesfallingcherryblossomsto fluttering
butterflies.The scene indicatesthe beginningof the newyear
when poemswrittenon long slips of paperwere hung on a
branchwithmanyotherpoems as partof the NewYear's
celebration.The bloomingplumin the rightforegroundis a
harbingerof spring.
Thewomanseatedon thefarrightis a geishawithher
musicalinstrumenton thefloornextto her,perhapspreparing
to play.Geisha,literally"accomplished
person,"wasan
whodanced,playedmusic,sangandconversedwith
entertainer
guestsin the pleasurequarters.Standingin the doorwayis an
thefiguresare
attendantholdinga teapot Compositionally,
arrangedin a trianglewiththe standingcourtesanformingthe
pointofthe triangleandthebeginningof a diagonallinethat
connectsherto the seatedgeisha.
Beauties
New
the
in
Their
of
the
Yoshiwara,
Writing
KITAOMASANOBU(1761-1816)
Spring1784.Foldingalbum,37 cm x 25 cm. PortlandArtMuseum,Portland,Oregon.
MaryAndrewsLaddCollection,1966.84.(detail)
This printis anelegantexampleof woodblock
printingand
illustrateswhythis periodis referredto as the GoldenAge of
ukiyo-e.Carvedinwood,the individualstrandsof hairand
strokesof calligraphyareso fluidtheyrealisticallyimplybrush
strokes.The artistdesignedthe image;craftsmencarvedthe
blocks;a printeractuallyprintedthe image;andthe processwas
coordinatedby a publisherwho then distributedthe completed
print.
Withher long hair,the writingcourtesanwouldremind
Women
Mimicking
18thcenturyJapaneseviewersof LadyMurasakiwho
wrotethe TheTaleof Genjiseven centuriesearlier.The
courtesan'souterkimonohas, at the bottom,two scenes
fromthe TheTaleof Genjito reinforcethis referenceto the
past.In one scene a visitoris callingon a lady;in the otheris
a boatingscene. Drapeddownthe frontof the courtesan's
kimonois her sash, or obi, used to tie the kimono.In
contrastto otherwomen,a courtesanalwaystied her obi in
the front.
the
Rokkasen
UTAMARO
KITAGAWA
(1753-1806)
c. 1792.Woodblockprint,obandiptych,39.5 cm x 24.5 cm (rightpanel),38 cm x 25.1 cm (leftpanel).PortlandArtMuseum,
Portland,Oregon.MaryAndrewsLaddCollection,1932.295.
The womenarrangedhere areactingouta parodyof six
famousJapanesepoetsoftencalledthe Immortalsof Poetry
This charade-likeactivityformedthe basisformany
(rokkasen).
socialgatherings.The challengewas to identifyeachof the
classicalpoetsthroughthe use of contemporary
props.The
is indicatedby the "baldheads"
creativityof the participants
representedby handkerchiefsdrapedovertheirheads,the "fan"
actuallymadeupofloveletters,anda "courtlyhat"symbolizedby
MAY 1996
/ ART EDUCATION
Utamaro
oban
Women
theRokkasen,
and38cmx2
Woodblock
39.5cmx 24.5cm
Kitagawa
c.1792.
(right
panel)
Mimicking
(1753-1806),
print,
diptych,
Portland
ArtMuseum,
Andrews
Ladd
1932.295.
Mary
Oregon.
Portland,
Collection,
Kitao
ACompetition
Masanobu
Mirrored
inTheir
1784.Folding
theNewBeauties
oftheYoshiwara,
album
Spring
(1761-1816),
Writing,
Among
37cmx 25cm.Portland
Ladd
ArtMuseum,
Andrews
1966.84.
Portland,
Collection,
Oregon.
Mary
i
an openbook.The poemsabovethe women'sheadsare
parodiesof poemswrittenby the immortalpoets.The first
of the
poemon the rightis a parodyby poetYashokuKatamura
followingpoemattributedto the 9thcenturyclassicalpoet
Otomono Kuronushi:
Kagamiyama
iza tachiyorite
miteyukamu
toshihenurumi wa
to
oiyashinuru
whichtranslatesas:"IfI wereto go to MirrorMountain,wouldI
see in myreflectiontherehowmuchI haveaged?"The other
classicalpoetsareAriwano Narihira(bowandquiverof
arrows),Onono Komachi(withthe fan),Bunyano Yasuhide
(hat),SojoHenjoandKisenHoshi (priestswithshavedheads).
Thisprintdocumentsthe collaboration
ofwomen,poets,the
boxatthebeginningof
artist,andthepublisher.Therectangular
eachpoemcontainsthenameofthewomanbelow,and
underneath
theboxis the nameofthepoet.The artist'ssignature
andthe publisher'sseal (aflowerandthreemountains)appearat
the rightandleftedges ofthe printThepoemsarereadfrom
rightto left,topto bottom,inJapanesestyle.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1.The followingquestionsapplyto eachof the fourimages.
Selectone of the imagesandexploreit in depth,looking
carefullyanddrawinganswersfromstudentobservations.
Beginwitha carefulexplorationof the image.Howmany
peoplearein thiswork?Describethe linesyoufindin the image
(thick/thin,long/short,straight/curved/jagged,
implied/actual).Pointoutthe differentpatternsof the fabric;
how manydifferentones canyoufind?Identifythe shapes
foundin the work (circles,triangles,squares,rectangles;
geometricor organic).
Describehowyoureye movesfromone areaof the workto
another.Identifywhatthe artisthas doneto leadyoureye (use
of shapes,lines,repetition,lineof sightbetweenfigures).Does
youreye continuallymovearoundthe workor doyoufindyou
focuson one areamorethananyother?
Identifythe techniqueused to makethiswork(woodblock
printing).Ifa differentblockwas neededforeachcolorused,
how manyblockswereneededto makethisprint?Imaginehow
thisworkmightappeardifferentlyif itwerea painting,orif the
artisthadtakena photographof the scene.
Locatethe writingin thiswork.Does allof the writing
appearto havebeen doneby the samepersonwiththe same
Nameallof the areasof thisprintthatresemble
handwriting?
brushedorpaintedlines.
Imagineyourselfin this scene.Whatareyou doing?Saying?
Whatareyou holding?Wearing?Whatdoes it feellike?How
wouldthe scene be differentif the figureswerein western
room?
clothesin a contemporary
selectone
2. Nowlook at allfourimagessimultaneously,
question,andcomparethe responsesfromdifferentprints.
These questionsaresuggested:
a. Describehowyoureye movesfromone areaof the work
to another.
b. Locatethe writingin eachwork.
c. Imagineyourselfin this scene.
Describesimilaritiesanddifferencesbetweenthe prints.
on the artist,subject,
3. Sharethe backgroundinformation
timeperiod,andwoodblockprintingwiththe students.Does
this changetheirobservationsaboutthe prints?Inwhatareas?
(Be specific.)
Discussthe smallsize of these imagesandthe factthatthere
weremultiplecopiesmadeandthenownedby manypeople.
Whataresome imagesthatwe tradeorexchangetoday?
(Baseballcards,photographs,businesscards).Listwaysthat
we collectimagesofbeautifulorfamouspeople(magazines,
sportscards,recordalbums).Listotherplaceswheretextand
imagesarecombinedto senda message (T.V.ads,billboards).
ART EDUCATION / MAY 1996
FORGRADES6-12
SUGGESTEDACTIVITIES
Note:These activitiesmaybe alteredto matchyour
classroom,students,andcurriculum.
1.Activities Related to Literature
a.The Masanobuprintincludesseveraldirectreferencesto
TheTaleofGenji.Focuson.the designson the
LadyMurasaki's
standingcourtesan'skimono.These relateto a scenefromGenji
whena courtlymanis callingon a ladyandto a boatingscene.
ReadpassagesfromTheTaleofGenjialoudto the groupor
assignpassagesorthe entirebookto yourclass.Class
discussioncouldfocuson the plot,imagesthataresimilaror
differentfromthe fourimagesprovidedin thisinstructional
resource,anddescriptionsof specificdetailsof dailylifein
HeianPeriodJapan.
TheTaleofGenjiwaswritten700yearsbeforeMasanobu
withclassicalJapanese
madethisprint.Masanobu'sfamiliarity
literaturewastypicalin 18thcenturyJapan.A popularcardgame
includedimagesoffamouswritersanda linefromone of their
famousworks.The playershadto matchthewriter'scardwith
one thatincludesa secondlinefromthatwriter.Whatwriteror
writersarewe thatfamiliarwith?Selecta historicalwriter,
perhapsShakespeare,Dante,Chaucer,orTwain,and
a referenceto his orherworkin a piececreatedby
incorporate
the student.Youmightassigna literaryreferenceorpun(For
instancea lineof poetrysuchas "tosee ornotto see"makesa
nodin Shakespeare's
direction).Referto Utamaro'sprintand
the punsofclassicalJapanesepoets.Studentscouldalsomakea
animagefroma scenein an
visualreferenceby incorporating
artworktheycreate(perhapsa scenefromChaucer's
abouta vacationorfamilytrip
Talesin a narrative
Canterbury
intoa
alsobe incorporated
could
reference
The
took).
they
theatricalpiece,perhapsdrawingon charades.Do nothavethe
student'swritethe nameofthepieceofliteratureorauthorthey
arereferringto on theirartworkorin the titleoftheirpiece.
To test the effectivenessofthe references,exhibitallstudent
INSTRUCTIONAL
?
_?
O
workandthen distributea listof the literatureandauthors
referredto.As a class,attemptto matchthe studentartwork
withthe appropriate
pieceof literature.Completethe
assignmentby havingeach studentreadthe passagefroma
"classical"
pieceof literatureto whichthey referred.The entire
class shoulddiscussthe success of the referencesandskillsor
techniquesthatseem to be the mostorleastutilized.The class
couldthenbrainstormadditionalareastheywishto explore.
b. Reviewthe structureandformatof haiku(seventeen
syllablepoem,usuallywithfivesyllablesin the firstline,seven
syllablesin the second,andfivesyllablesin the lastline).Haiku
usuallydescribessomethingobservedin nature.
Brainstormdescriptivewordseitherin the classroomor on
a fieldtrip.Ifinthe classroom,imagesfromartbooksor
effectiveat
photographsof naturecanbe particularly
words.
On
a
field
select
anenvironment
generatinggood
trip,
thatis particularly
evocative(apark,museum,monument).
Havethe studentsfocuson one objectorareaandlist as many
adjectives,adverbs,verbs,andnounsas they canthatcapture
the essence of the object
Returnto the classroomandcomposepoems.Encourage
themto experimentwithseveralgood ideas.Sharethe worksin
progressoutloud,listeningto howthe wordssound.Remind
the studentsthatthese arestilldraftpoems.Thenhavethe
studentsselectthe one ortwotheyaremostpleasedwithand
writethemon narrowslipsof paperliketanzaku.Hangthe
completedpoemslipson a driedbranchin a comerof your
classroom,or on a bulletinboard.Tryto capturethe fluttering
effectof tanzakususpendedon branchesoutsideduringthe
JapaneseNewYear's.'
2.Activities Related to Art
a.Summarizethe symbolsrepeatedthroughouttheseworks
of art,listingwhateachsymbolmeans.(Obitiedin front=
courtesan,mountainandflower=publisher'smark,longflowing
hair= LadyMurasakiandotherclassicalwomen,bookonhead=
hatof a particular
writer).As a class,listsymbolsthatwe see
everyday(octagonalstopsign,one-wayarrow,handicap
accessiblesymbol,childrenwalking[schoolnearby]).Then,list
wordsthatsymbolizeyourclassroom.Studentsmayalsolist
wordsorideasthattheyfeelexpressthemselves.Haveeach
studentdesigna seal,symbol,orcrestdrawingon characteristics
of themselvesorthe classroom.Theyshouldthinkaboutwhat
color,shape,andpossiblywordtheywantto emphasizeandthen
explainwhytheymadethatchoice.Thefinalsymbolsmaybe
doneon stickers,banners,T-shirts,hats,notebooks,folders,
portfoliosoranyothersurfaceandmaterialavailable.
b. Developa projectthatincorporatesimagewithtext.
Determinewhatmediayouwishthe studentsto workwith,
thenhavethemselect anideato pursue.Perhapstheywillrefer
to a particular
event,place,or person.Begineitherby sketching
exercisewouldbe
imagesorwritingwords.A brainstorming
effective.Oncetheyhavea portfolioof bothimages
particularly
andwords,theyshouldbeginto fusethem.Encourage
of lettersintoobjects,andobjectsintoletters.
manipulation
Discussthe originof lettersas symbols,andintroducebasic
calligraphicfiguressuch as mountain.Reviewthe calligraphic
wordsfoundin the fourimagesof this instructional
resource.
!
Haveeach studentsharetwoorthreedraftconceptswiththe
entireclass.Afterdiscussion,let each studentselect one piece
to developintoa finalwork.
GLOSSARY
courtesan-termusuallyemployedin Englishwhenreferringto
higher-ranking
prostitutesof the EdoPeriod.
lords,givenestatesinprovinces
(domains)
daimyo-feudal
bythe
"shogun."
person;"entertainerswho dance,play
geisha-literally,"accomplished
music,sing andconversewithguests.
haiku-a terminventedlatein the nineteenthcenturyto designatea
poemwhichis completein seventeensyllablesandis notpartof a
sequence.
oban-standardsize print,approximately
37.5cm x 25.5cm.
obi-long sashes of variouswidthswoundaroundthe waistorhipsto
fastengarmentssecurelyin place.
rokkasen-thesix immortalsof poetry.
shogun-termforthe militarydictatorofJapanfrom1185to 1868.
tanzaku-narrowstripoftintedor decoratedpaperusedforinscribing
poetry.
woodblock
printing-techniquein whichallwhiteareaswerecarved
away,whilethe coloredareasremainedraisedandreceivedthe
ink.Multipleblockswereused to accommodatethe intricate
designandthe manyseparatecolorsof inkused.
REFERENCES
the greats:Artas the catalystin
Bates,M. (1993,July)."Imitating
studentpoetry."Art
Education,46(4), 41-45.
Brower,R.H. andMiner,E. (1961).Japanesecourtpoety. Stanford
Press.
JCA:Stanford
University
Clark,T. T. (1992).Ukiyo-e
paintingsin theBritishMuseum.London:
BritishMuseumPress.
Jenkins,D. (1993).TheFloatingWorldrevisited.Portland,OR:
PortlandArtMuseum.
Keene,D. (1976).Worldwithinwalls,Japaneseliteratureofthepremodernera, 1600-1867.NewYork:GrovePress.
Lane,R. (1978).ImagesoftheFloatingWorld:theJapaneseprint.
NewYork:Putnam.
Murasaki,S. (1960).TheTaleof Genji.ArthurWaley,Trans.
NewYork:The ModemLibrary.
Seigle,C. S. (1993).TheYoshiwara,TheglitteringworldoftheJapanese
courtesan.Honolulu,HI:Universityof HawaiiPress.
NOTE
the Greats:Artas the Catalystin
MarilynBates'sarticle,"Imitating
StudentPoetry"in theJuly 1993issue ofArtEducationis an
excellentresourceforcreativewritingbased on experiencingart
objects.
AUTHOR NOTE
Specialthanksto DonaldJenkins,Curatorof AsianArtandJudy
Schultz,AssociateCuratorof Educationat the PortlandArtMuseum,
andJeffreyYork,Directorof Education,BirminghamMuseumofArt,
Birmingham,Alabamaforassistancein preparingthis article.
Amy BoyceOsakiisformer CuratorofEducation,Portland
Art Museum,PortlandOregon.Interestedreadersmay
contacttheEducationDepartment,PortlandArtMuseum,
(503)226-2811, x225, to orderslidesor to receivemore
informationon the objects.
MAY 1996
/ ART EDUCATION
H
,
F~~~~~~~~~~~~~,
,,
as
Kitao
Masanobu
(1761-1816),
ACompetition
Among
theNewBeauties
oftheYoshiwara,
Mirrored
inTheir
Writing,
Spring
of1784.Folding
album,
37cm
Portland
ArtMuseum,
Portland,
Oregon.
Mary
Andrews
Ladd
Collection,
1966.84
(detail).

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